10/08/17 — Beads of Courage

View Archive

Beads of Courage

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 8, 2017 5:14 PM

Full Size


Each of these Beads of Courage boxes that Bill Thering made contain more than 200 little pieces of wood.

Full Size


Dolphins were painted on this box.

Full Size


Joy Vinson is one of the women at Fremont United Methodist Church who paint designs on the boxes.

Full Size


Scarlette Rouse turns a box on a saw in her workshop.

To some, it might not mean much -- a red bead here, a white bead there or even a black bead. But to critically ill children, the beads are everything.

They represent each step through their journey with their illness.

To give these children a place to keep their beads, several people in Wayne County, and throughout the nation, are making Beads of Courage boxes.

A lot of the boxes go to children who are enrolled in the Beads of Courage program at participating hospitals. There are six hospitals in North Carolina, including Vidant in Greenville, UNC Children's Hospital and Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem.

And sometimes, the people who make the boxes will hear of a child who needs a box and give that child one.

One of the local people making Beads of Courage boxes is Scarlette Rouse. The 56-year-old started making the boxes when she attended a national symposium of the American Association of Wood Turners in Atlanta last June. Her woodturning club was asked to make some boxes to take to the symposium. Scarlette went online and got the dimensions and made three.

"I carved deer antlers on one," she said. "I put the word Beads of Courage on another in zentangle and painted them. Then I carved Superman on the other.

"When I got to Atlanta, the Superman box was not with the others and I asked the lady what happened to it. She said she took it aside for a little 7-year-old boy named Ricky. He had terminal brain cancer. She told me he loved everything Superman. It made a blubbering idiot out of me. That hooked me."

When Scarlette got home, she vowed that she'd make at least one Beads of Courage box a month. She has made 67 boxes so far.

She is touched by the purpose of the boxes.

"When children are diagnosed with a serious illness, they get a string of beads with their first name spelled out," Scarlette said. "All the beads are hand blown glass beads. They get a different color bead every time they go through something to represent what they've been through, like a blood transfusion is a red bead, chemo is a white bead, an overnight hospital stay is a black bead."

She said a lot of times the children hang their strings of beads on their IV to tell their story. Then they store their beads in the Beads of Courage boxes.

She has had a few special requests for her boxes.

"I went to church camp with my grandchildren and met a little boy there with cancer," Scarlette said. "His mom said he didn't have a box and I told her I'd make him one. I came home and made him one, and it just kept stirring in me and I felt I was supposed to be doing this."

Scarlette said there's a little 3-year-old girl who lives just down the road from her who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Scarlette used to work with the girl's grandmother and she told her she'd make a box for the girl.

And she's made one for her great-nephew, who has cancer. It had a Wolfpack logo on it because he likes all things Wolfpack.

"I had a special request from the hospital in Winston-Salem," Scarlette said. "A child had passed away and the hospital wasn't getting any boxes at all at that time. The parents wanted something to keep their child's beads in."

It takes her anywhere from about four hours to 10 hours to make a box.

She gets her wood from trees that have fallen. She cuts the wood with her chainsaw then puts in on her bandsaw and cuts it as round as she can get it.

Next, it goes on a lathe where Scarlette turns it. After hollowing it out, she makes a lid and puts polyurethane on the entire box.

Bill Thering is another local wood turner who's making Beads of Courage boxes.

But he does segmented boxes, taking a single board and cutting it into very small pieces, which he then assembles for a box. One box contains between 275 and 300 pieces.

He head about the Beads of Courage boxes from Scarlette. He had not heard of the program before that.

"I thought it was cool because everybody's been through something," Bill said. "When you're making the boxes, you can't help but think about the box going to a child. Just because it's kids, it gets on your mind. You don't know them. I've got a very large family and several of the children have been through things. This is something I can do to reach out to a child."

When the boxes are finished, they usually go to women of Fremont United Methodist Church to be painted.

Joy Vinson is one of them.

She found out about the boxes through Scarlette, whom she went to high school with.

When Hurricane Matthew hit Goldsboro last October, it felled Joy's favorite Maple tree in her back yard, which held special meaning for Joy. It's where many family gatherings had taken place.

Joy gave the wood from the tree to Scarlette, who promised to make something special for Joy. She made a small bowl and a large bowl, which sit in Joy's den.

That was before Scarlette began making the Beads of Courage boxes. Later she posted on Facebook that she needed help with the boxes. That's how Joy got into painting them.

It has special meaning for Joy because she is a cancer survivor herself. About 10 years ago, she had breast and ovarian cancer.

"I love to paint, and I feel like I can use my passion to give back and love on somebody I know I'll never meet because of the love I received when I was going through my experience with cancer," Joy said.

A retired art teacher, Joy can now devote time to painting the Beads of Courage boxes.

She and Bill got to church together, so she started painting some of his boxes, too.

"The very first box I painted for Scarlette was an angel," Joy said. "The reason for that is because my mom passed away three years ago and she collected angels. For some reason, when I was painting that box, her presence was very, very close at times."

That box went to a little girl in Wilmington, whose great-aunt Scarlette and Joy also went to school with.

"The Lord has been good to me, and if he's given me this gift and this talent, I need to share it," Scarlette said. "And that's what I'm doing. When I make a box, I'm praying for the child and the parents who will receive it."

The wood turners and painters can always use help with the Beads of Courage boxes. They always need donations of wood and other items to decorate the boxes.

Anyone wanting to help with the boxes or make a donation of any kind for the program may call Scarlette at 252-560-4138 or email her at scarletterouse@gmail.com.